Research teams across the UK will investigate the feasibility of five innovative methods of large-scale removal of greenhouse gases to mitigate the effects of climate change

Research teams across the UK will examine the feasibility of five innovative methods of large-scale removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere to help the UK meet its statutory net-zero climate target by 2050.

All methods have the potential to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere – but their effectiveness, costs and limitations need to be better understood and demonstrated on a scale.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) will invest £ 30 million in five interdisciplinary projects and a central hub at Oxford University to conduct the research over a period of 4.5 years. Another GBP 1.5 million will be invested in further studies in the third year of research.

The results will be used to help the government make longer term decisions about the most effective technologies to help the UK fight climate change and reduce carbon emissions.

These greenhouse gas removal demonstrator projects will examine:

  • Management of bogs to maximize their greenhouse gas removal potential in farmland near Doncaster and in highland locations in the South Pennines and Pwllpeiran, West Wales.
  • Improved Rock Weathering – Crushing silica rock and distributing the particles at field test sites on farmland in Mid Wales, Devon and Hertfordshire.
  • Use of biochar, a coal-like substance, as a viable method of carbon sequestration. The tests will be carried out at arable and grassland sites in the Midlands and Wales, a sewage disposal facility in Nottinghamshire, former mine sites and railway embankments.
  • Large-scale tree planting or afforestation to assess the most effective species and locations for carbon sequestration in locations across the UK including land owned by the Department of Defense, National Trust and Network Rail.
  • Rapid scale-up of perennial bioenergy crops such as grasses (miscanthus) and short-turning low pasture at locations in Lincolnshire and Lancashire.

Greenhouse gas removal describes a group of methods by which CO2 is removed directly from the atmosphere. They are designed to complement emissions reduction efforts targeting hard-to-decarbonize sectors such as heavy industry, agriculture and aviation.

The £ 31.5 million program is part of the second wave of the government’s Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF), which invests in high quality multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research.

Professor Sir Duncan Wingham, Executive Chairman of the Natural Environment Research Council, part of UKRI, said:

“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a priority for the UK, but it is clear that this alone will not be enough to reduce CO2 and meet the UK’s net zero climate target by 2050.

“These projects are investigating how we can use innovative technologies to actively remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere to the extent necessary to protect our planet. This investment by UKRI is particularly significant as the UK prepares to host COP26 in Glasgow later this year. “

The demonstration program for the removal of greenhouse gases is supported by a central hub of the Directorate to take on an overarching coordination role with a special focus on environmental, economic, social, cultural, ethical, legal and governance issues.

The hub will have a strong research role and will also actively engage with business communities to support innovation in GGR demonstrator techniques and their advancement to marketability.

Professor Cameron Hepburn from Oxford University heads the Directorate Hub. He said:

“The removal of greenhouse gases is important in order to achieve net CO2-free emissions and to stabilize the climate. In addition to the need to cut emissions much faster now, we also need to start pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere.

“Greenhouse gas removal is not only important, it has the potential to become big business. While we are rebuilding societies and economies after Covid-19, we have the opportunity to orientate ourselves towards the green jobs and industries of the future. I am very pleased that UKRI is supporting such a strategic program. “

This work complements UKRI’s long tradition of investing in cutting-edge research and innovation to understand, address and mitigate the effects of climate change. In the year that the UK hosts the United Nations COP26 Summit in November, UKRI will use its role as steward of the research and innovation system to bring our communities together to create sustainable and resilient solutions and promote new behaviors and ways of life , which the UK aims to achieve net zero by 2050.

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